What I Saw in the 52nd Super Bowl: A Great Championship Game
Photo via PatriotsWire/USA Today Sports
By Ivan Cole
I had originally planned to not watch the game but changed my mind. I was glad I did. It was almost certainly the most entertaining offensive spectacle of a championship game, beginning to end, there has been. Further, the outcome, and the manner that it was reached was probably the best the league could hope for given the circumstances.
You didn’t have to be a Patriots hater or buy too deeply into the ‘cheaters/conspiracy’ narratives to believe that it would be best for the game that they lost. The league has staked its business model on being anti-dynastic (more commonly referred to as parity) for some pretty good reasons. Even some Pats fans were hoping to break the cycle this year.Philadelphia, a team and city that hasn’t been on top of the football heap since the year that Bill Mazeroski’s home run won the World Series, now have their first Lombardi. Though some undoubtedly will, it is hard to begrudge the cosmic justice in that.
It is certain that the citizens of the City of Brotherly Love will appreciate securing that trophy more than the jaded denizens of Boston (or Pittsburgh for that matter). The list of non- winning franchises shrinks (Buffalo, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Detroit, Minnesota, Houston, Jacksonville, Tennessee, Atlanta, Carolina, the Chargers, and Arizona remain) and hope springs eternal.
Let me make my position on one thing absolutely clear: The pass to Jesse James was a touchdown, full stop. I won’t bore you re-litigating the matter in this space except to say that it is one of the most brazen and outrageous displays of open highway robbery and gaslighting (‘Don’t believe your lying eyes’!) that you will ever witness. It is particularly poetic that the central character involved is named Jesse James. Hard to make this stuff up. Nor do I want to hear that the decision had no bearing on subsequent events. Of course, it did. More gaslighting.
Because of the previous, it would have been very difficult to engage in such manipulation again. Too many were on the look out for it. I was asked by Hombre if the thought of a reversal crossed my mind with the last Eagles touchdown. Of course, it did. You can be certain that I wasn’t alone in that suspicion. But it was a legal catch you say? What’s that got to do with anything? The only question was that, if they were so inclined, would they have the chutzpah to just do it? Apparently not, thankfully. Can you imagine what this day would be like if they had? (In the opinion of some, the more controversial catch was the one shown above, by Corey Coleman, who bobbled the ball, but that came earlier in the game…)
It’s reasonable to assume that the administration of the game would be under close scrutiny, and in retrospect that awareness may have also been manifest in the area of penalties. If memory serves there were no major penalties (ten yards or more) accessed against the offense or defense of either team. This may provide a partial explanation of the quality of play and almost complete lack of punting. We don’t appreciate how distorting penalties can be to the capacities of both offenses and defenses. For once the officials were not part of the story, and they should be commended for that.
No, its not the offensive line.
Must disagree with Rebecca here. Both offensive lines played well enough for their running games to have a measure of effectiveness, but not dominance. The greater impact was in pass protection where the defensive fronts of each team combined made just one play the entire evening (the strip sack of Brady), and it was a big one. Foles was not sacked. Brady, just that one time. Neither line performed at a level beyond which the Steelers are capable of right now. James Harrison, though a positive veteran presence, was nonetheless, something of a nonfactor when you consider that he was matched up with the backup for Jason Peters.
Sorry. I’m calling B.S. on the off season we-didn’t-win-the-Super-Bowl-so-let’s-dump-the best-back-in-football-for-a-midround-draft-pick-and-save-some-money-revamp-the-now- inadequate-offensive-line-and-blow-up-the-defense-because-nothing-works-around- here narrative. Happens every year.
Nor is it the defense.
You need to play man secondary defense to beat Brady and the Pats, or so everyone said. That’s what the Eagles did, and they got shredded like tissue paper. You need a talented and deep defensive front, which Philadelphia possesses. And? Gronkowski did to the Eagles defenders what he did to Sean Davis. And the Steelers gave up fewer points.
So, what was the difference?
There was a time when the offense was in the hands of the quarterback. With sub packages and other areas of complexity, that is no longer the case. But the Philly offensive brain trust consists of two former quarterbacks (Doug Pedersen and Frank Reich). The diversity of the offensive play calling on both sides and the quality of the quarterback play were the clear difference here.
And, if you were wondering, nothing happened out there last Sunday offensively that the Steelers could not have matched or exceeded, with the only point of concern being consistency at tight end.
It’s a shame they missed the party.
Also check out this open article (not behind the Scout.com paywall) by Jim Wexell. It’s a gem, and thanks to Hombre for calling it to my attention.
And as long as I’m putting in bonus material, check this out: